The European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council signed an Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1988 which laid the framework for the elaboration of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two regional blocs. Formal negotiations began in 1990 and are still not concluded.
While the EU has powerful economic interests in liberalising investment rules in the Gulf States, so that EU corporations may participate directly in the region’s oil, banking, telecoms, port services and other industries, political issues have been publically blamed for blocking agreement. These include demands from the EU with regards to fulfilling standards of democracy and human rights, as well as clauses on cooperation against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Human rights groups, such as the International Federation for Human Rights, have urged the EU to insist on respect for freedom of press, women’s rights and labour rights of migrant workers in the Gulf countries in return for any trade concessions granted through the FTA.
At the end of 2008, the GCC formally announced it was suspending the trade talks due to the EU’s insistence on political demands.
last update: May 2012
photo: European External Action Service - EEAS/CC BY-NC 2.0
Bahrain yesterday called for GCC-EU member states to fast-track the Free Trade Agreement. "Such a deal would send GCC-EU economic co-operation to new heights," Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Dr Essam Fakhro yesterday said.
Joint statement from business representatives of both the EU and the GCC, dated 29 October 2008
Bahrain yesterday exuded confidence that its current talks with Germany would expedite the signing of the much-delayed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the six-nation Gulf Cooperation nations and the 27-nation European Union that has eluded them for close to 20 years.
GCC Secretary General H.E. Abdurrahman bin Hamad Al-Attiyah laid the responsibility on the European Union for obstructing the conclusion of the free trade agreement between the two sides which was signed in 1988 despite the developed economic and cultural bilateral relations during the last two centuries.
A free trade agreement bonding the GCC and EU may be sealed next year. "Bilateral talks are progressing steadily," said Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Dr Essam Fakhro.
A former Saudi official yesterday urged Gulf oil producers to halt their prolonged free trade negotiations with the European Union (EU) and opt instead for separate agreements that will serve the region’s interests.
Gulf oil producers have criticised the European Union (EU) for delaying the signing of a landmark free trade agreement (FTA) that could support their long-standing bid to diversify their oil-reliant economies.
How important is the trade agreement for GCC? And who will benefit more: EU or GCC?
Businessmen on both sides are pushing the GCC and the European Union towards a free trade agreement - or the next best thing, according to Bahrain-based weekly business intelligence magazine The Gulf.
Gulf Cooperation Council says will not accept any political conditions by the European Union to sign a free trade agreement. The EU’s final position is expected in July.